DP's contact with his children(42 Posts)
DP and I have been together for about 20 months now and we started living together 8 months ago. Home life is great, and DP and my teenage DS get on like a house on fire. He proposed 6 months ago and we are due to get married at the end of next year.
DP has two younger sons (12 and 8) whom he sees every other week. He goes up to where they live and stays there over the weekend, with a friend. I met the boys at the beginning of the year and they've stayed with us a handful of times since.
When DP and I first started talking about a future together, I asked him to describe how he saw his contact with his children working out. He told me that the boys would like for his DSs down every other weekend but that on some occasions, he would need to go up.
I haven't pressured for things to happen but this weekend I was bitterly disappointed to see that this is unlikely to be the case. DP went up two weeks ago and now he's up there again. Apparently, the boys didn't want to come because they didn't to miss their football fixtures.
While I appreciate the importance of children't commitments and experienced a similar thing with DS, I cannot see why they couldn't miss it for one weekend in order to spend a weekend at their dad's home. I have so many issues with this that I don't even know where to start but I thought here would be a very good place to get others' opinions:
- his DSs are not part of what is now their dad's life
- are they getting a twisted picture of their family set up so that we will always be 'outsiders' instead of being an integral part of their dad's life?
- we will never have an opportunity to establish any links with them as we will never see them (or will only see them a couple of times a year)
From a selfish perspective, the arrangement of DP going away works out much better but it does not allow for any foundations to be built. What are we? An aside in DP's life? And more importantly: what happens at Christmas??? I never expected anything to happen overnight and I never rushed or put pressure on anything to happen. But I do expect us to share the same vision in terms of how things should or could work out, and for my expectations to be managed. Being told, after considerably probing (I knew what was coming, I just had to hear it), that he was going up again wasn't nice at all as that gives me no indication of what the future will look like.
Also, as a woman, as much as I respect him and his ex-wife for being in good terms, I don't particularly like the 'family Sunday lunch' and playing happy family scenario. I don't believe that the ex has closed that chapter in her life or has healed, and this was made worse by DP failing to tell her that he had asked me to marry him. Apparently she found out by looking at our picture together on FB, and promptly told the boys about it. I actually feel rathr uneasy about the whole thing tbh...
What struck me from your post, OP, was that you DP seems like a diligent, caring father who makes a real effort to see his sons regularly and enables their hobbies and commitments, which all sounds really positive.
The contact is for his children and so it's understandable that he wants to put their needs first and not disrupt their schedule if possible. They are right in the age range where peers, friendships and hobbies are really crucial so by ensuring they get to their regular football games, he's doing a good thing. Plus they are probably thrilled that their dad can watch their football eow.
You don't mention the distance involved but could you go up and stay with him (either with the friend or in a Travelodge) now and then so that you and the boys get to know each other better? This should begin to help address your concerns that you and your DS are 'outsiders'. It doesn't have to be an 'us and them' scenario. It sounds like logistics more than anything else. Of course his boys will also need one to one time with their dad so you wouldn't need to travel every time.
The rest of your concerns (Christmas, longer term plans, the ex wife) sound like they could benefit from some proper discussions with DP. It may be that he had good reason not to tell his Ex about the engagement so it's not necessarily sinister.
It's not a twisted picture though, is it? It's the right picture. Every family is different. Their family involves a dad they see frequently, who puts them first (why should they miss their football matches?!) and who has a wife that they like but who isn't a big part of their lives because she lives nowhere near.
Your post is all about what you want. I think the situation is fine as it is. You might want to be a big family together... If that is so important, then you need to look into all moving up there. Except you won't want to move your son. This is how modern families are. I am sympathetic that it isn't what you want, but it is what it is.
The Sunday lunch thing is different. You need to resolve that before you get married. And none of the I trust him but not her stuff. Because if that was true, you would find it easier to accept it. Sounds like you want the "family" set up with him, can't have it, and are jealous when he seems to have it up there. You need to sort this out before you get married.
Also, you putting "Christmas" as the most important thing... well, it isn't. It's a day. Which again makes me feel like maybe you're overly invested in trying to create a "family" with his kids. You can be a family, but you may need to accept you're not going to have a big role. Might help to think about why you need this?
Whether you were on the scene or not, I don't think cosy Sunday Lunches are good for either her or the boys. It's not helping anyone move forward. Yes it's good if they can remain friends and celebrate special birthdays/graduations/achievements together (and both of the adults to include their significant others if they have them), but they need to stop playing at 'happy families' every Sunday.
Could you go up every second time or so?
Could you move near them?
Stepfamily life is just 'different' from nuclear family life, and marriage isn't going to change that. Speaking as a stepmother, one solution that sometime used to come to mind is just wanting to hijack my two stepchildren and make them a part of our family life. (They got on well with me and loved their baby sister, so there were times when it seemed like an option.But I knew that wasn't realistic. I just had to respect and accept the life they had elsewhere in order to have a proper relationship with them.)
I think if you feel 'bitterly' disappointed that your partner has gone to be with his children, there's quite a hard road ahead. I think learning to be flexible, but also being able to talk honestly about your own needs with your partner is going to be crucial.
Hi Op, you're intentions are clearly good and you sound like you've found a good one in your partner. I can see why you don't like the thought of 'cost Sunday lunches' but it's only once a fortnight and its really nice that the children see their parents still get along. Saying that, if it's about being adult and maintaining strong links with the children then I don't see why you can't go up too? Would that be an option?
Just to add: I have no interest in a fortnightly lunch with my ex, as he turns my stomach. But - if we did, my 5yo would not find it confusing at all, I am sure of that.
We have separate houses. She knows he is not my "one true love". She knows we are not getting back together.
I wish he hadn't been such an arsehole and that I could stomach him. Because I think she'd enjoy chatting with us both together.
I think she'd enjoy chatting with us both together.
It's not widely recommended by child psychologists, particularly for younger DCs who are still coming to terms with their parents separation (which may take several years).
It obviously depends on the DC, but creating "family time" when parents are separated can create confusion and false hope for a DC, and I've certainly witnessed this first hand.
My DSS witnessed his mum and dad have many heated arguments, heard his mum bad mouthing his dad regularly and has been caught up in several bitter court hearings. He is under no illusion about his mums dislike of his dad, and cannot conceive of a time when they loved each other. Yet, even he said that when (on the very odd occasion) he saw his mum and dad being civil to each other and talking nicely, he thought they might be getting back together.
A colleague remained friends with her ex, they often took their DD out together and even holidayed as a family post separation and her daughter came up with the fabulous solution that "Mum, Dad and Mums DP can all live together" - like my DSS, her DD drew false hope from the periods that her parents did spend together that they could reunite as a family full time.
I don't disagree with you as a general position Wakey, but I do think you have to make the decision for individual children.
Mine is at a very honest age - she does seem to say what she wants and thinks. For example, she has a couple of time said "I know you and daddy don't want to be married now but it's a shame" and we just talk about that (lightly). At the same time, she giggled at Taylor Swift on the radio and said "mummy, I love that song! That's you and daddy - never ever ever getting back together!"
I might be wrong about her, and as it happens I'm not going to chance it anyway seeing as I don't like her father!
I'm diverting the thread a bit I just wanted to say that it's not a given that it's a bad thing for children to see both parents together. But definitely a minefield!
Not the OP's biggest issue though!
Bit staggered by the 'advice' on here, I actually agree with everything you said OP and think it's completely reasonable and you need to sit him down and talk about it openly and honestly as you have here.
'sounds like you are jealous blah blah blah' SERIOUSLY?!?!?! That is one of the most unhinged things I might have ever read. I don't even know how to respond to some of these replies they're so off base with the reality of everything I know about raising a child. A child needs to see a rounded view of their dad and his life not some off dinner dad. All I can see of a child being excluded from dads life in this way is huge emotional damage in their future, why didn't you let me be part of your family dad, why did you raise that other kid like your son.....
I think you're spot on OP I would feel the same and I think you should gently proceed. Give it time and space too though as you won't all instantly be family it takes time
For all the twattish behaviour of my EX and his delightful DP - one thing he and I have done, is take the DCS out for a meal every 2-3 months.
Just us - no one else.
They are now old enough to understand. They know they can ask us/tell us anything without having to relay stuff to two parents. Issues that were only being seen from one side are in the open, we will not argue in front of the DCs - solutions found.
They bring up stuff on both sides which has surprised and saddened both of us - I am glad we do it. There are no illusions on getting back together.
Does it piss his DP off - yes, because his phone never stops whilst we are out - but for 90 mins our DCS get to speak and chat to both their parents without feeling like they are betraying the other one.
I do not give a toss what she thinks - this is about 2 children.
How far does your DP have to travel to see his kids OP - as others have said, would travelling up with your DO once in a while for the weekend be possible?
Sorry I haven't had a chance to log on recently!
DP travels about 3 hrs each way and yes, going up with him once in a while would be possible. I was expecting him to suggest it seeing that I've only been there once, in the end I said so myself a few days ago and he seemed pretty happy with the idea.
However, we've fallen out via text message tonight. He's up there and I thought it was odd that instead of texting or calling me to say 'good night', he sent me an email. Ok, he knew I was writing uni assignments and texts can be a bit slow but no call? I wouldn't give it a second thought if he had said that he was catching up with friends or whatever else, although I must confess that I probably wouldn't have reacted quite so well if he had said that they had all gone out as a family to watch fireworks or similar. So...he eventually called and became defensive, I put the phone down on him (terribly immature, I know) and told him that it's his 'stories' that ruin everything (and that he might as well stay where he is). What eats me up is the being lied to or not knowing what the situation is / where things stand.
In reference to some of the comments above, I disagree that the 'happy family' scenario is a good thing. It's admirable that they (supposedly) have such a good relationship after all these years - even though if that is the case. then why not tell the mother of his children about the engagement, even if it was only out of courtesy??. However, what I've experienced so far is the boys making comment after comment along the lines of "when mum and dad do this or do that...". So the message that I am getting is that even the little one, who was only 1 yo when they separated, seems to be clinging on to the family unit. That to me gets alarm bells ringing.
Oh, and no, no plans whatsoever to have children together.
Oh and I don't ever call and very rarely text when he's there, I just let him take the initiative and keep it to a minimum on the basis that we'll see each other within 24-48 hrs. This is partly because we are busy ourselves down here, but also because I believe in just letting him get on with his time with his boys.
Coming to this late, but Stella, I'm not surprised you're upset. Your DP is absent EOW, playing happy families with his ex. And I don't care how many people tell you "it's for the sake of the children", I actually think it's all quite unhealthy.
It's like he has his life in two separate compartments, and surely that's not sustainable?
And any man who wants a new marriage after a divorce has got to accept that he'll need to make a few compromises. In a blended family, no one gets it all their own way, everyone has to concede a few things to accommodate the new set-up, and it sounds like football fixtures are currently being given higher priority than anything else?
Hmm, I don't know what to think about this. There are definitely many different ways in which separated/blended families can work, and I don't think the model that your DP is pursuing is intrinsically 'the wrong one'. But there are some warning bells ringing, with keeping the two parts of his life so completely separate, not telling his ex or sons about the engagement...I must admit it doesn't all sit quite right with me and I am not surprised you feel uneasy OP.
That said, its hard to know what the best way forward is. Can you agree some kind of routine that involves a mix of them coming down to you, him going up to them alone, and you both going up to them together? I think that would be a good first step. Things should change more organically after that, maybe. My DP and his ex were quite close after their breakup, but now both with new partners they are still friends but do more with their DS in their separate family units than they do together, an inversion of the early days.
I agree with Riverboat's suggestion of a mix of arrangements, some weekends the OP joins her DP, some weekends she doesn't, and then some weekends where the DSS's visit the OP's home. That sounds sensible.
The difficulty would be if the ex didn't like it, or if the OP's DP wouldn't consider it (and that would be worrying).
In a ideal world things would change organically, but some access schedules are simply too inflexible to allow any natural shift.
I think each situation is so personal to the individual family when it comes to divorce and blended families.
It sounds to me like your DP is trying hard to both see his children by themselves and in their own environment; and also bring them into his life with you.
I can understand that. I would have found it very hard that my dad had only wanted to see me with his new family and partner's son. I did find it hard when my dad met my stepmum as it felt like there was a stranger in our relationship and I couldn't relax (even though I liked her and now love her). I would have appreciated if my dad hadn't expected us to play "happily families" immediately and made more individual time for us.
His children did not choose you and your child as part of their lives, so I think your DP is just trying to have time with them while also integrating them slowly into a new family set up.
I think it's a nice mix if you go up there sometimes, other times he has time with them himself and he also brings them down to your new home. It seems like quite a good balance.
I wouldn't personally be worried about him doing things with his ex and children. I have lots of divorced friends who do this and their children benefit from seeing their parents together, being civil and shows them that even when a romantic relationship breaks down, you can still have a family life. It's a different kind of family but it is still one. Any questions about their parents' relationships can be dealt with, but I think seeing your divorced parents being civil is better all round than knowing they hate each other.
It also helps later - no worries that parents won't get on at weddings, graduations and so on. My dad and mum eventually did this and over time, it included new partners too. My dad actually came over to visit with his partner when I last went to see my mum and her partner.
But if you're not happy about it, I think the only thing to do with your partner is talk about it. Try and move beyond getting hurt as it doesn't sound like he is trying to be thoughtless. It just sounds like it is a hard situation where lots of people (you included) are trying to do their best.
Sorry, crap advice but have been both a step child (and now love both parents' partners and are so happy they are in my life) and a step parent (who developed good relationships over time with children). So I really believe that blended families can be brilliant, but it takes time and a lot of effort.
Although, about the engagement, OP, I think you're right. He shouldn't have avoided telling his ex and kids. Of course that is a tricky conversation to get right with your ex and children and he may have been very nervous and bottled it, but he does need to be upfront and honest about your life together if his sons are to be integrated into it successfully.
It's odd that you say that YOU will be the outsiders, when you and your son live with him and he see his own children every other week. Surely they are the outsiders in his life, and thats the actual problem?
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